How and Where does Your Team Sell?

So, here I was two years ago: My number one salesperson was selling a ton of business — GREAT! The issue was that most of the deals were small. For the life of me, I couldn’t quite see what was happening in our larger opportunities that were causing us to not win. So, I looked to the great answer machine for help . . .

I had hundreds of Opportunities to review — you know an ideal set of data. After running a few reports, I realized to get to the bottom of things we needed to implement a better system of classifying our business. A friend once told me, “Even the most complex problems are simple once broken down into chunks.” Taking this advice, I broke our business into 5 Segments based on annual revenue. Once defined, this allowed me to split out Wins and Losses by salesperson and Segment.


I now have great information that helps my salespeople sell. Going back to the data, I found that our teams Segment One wins happen within 12 days while Segment Five wins happen within 120 days of Opportunity creation.

How did this information help us?

If a sales person excels at Segments One and Two deals, they also excel in very short sell cycles. Typically, these kinds of sales compact a long sales cycle into one face-to-face meeting and 2-3 phone calls.

Taking this farther, if a salesperson is in the habit of selling Segments One and Two deals, she is in BIG trouble rolling into Segments Three, Four, and Five deals. The reason is her sales habits aren’t aligned with the larger buying teams of bigger accounts.
Instead of splitting the team into Retail and Major Accounts, I used this information to help the sales team see when they needed to change their sales process. The data helped to demonstrate the salesperson’s historical Payroll Sales Segmentssales processes and made it much easier to coach the sales group.

Today, I advocate two sales processes: 1) the Simple Sales process; and 2) the OnePlus process.

Segments help to see your business in smaller chunks that are easier to grasp. On the marketing side, you can more accurately direct actions to specific Segments and get more impact out of your teams’ efforts. Once you break your business into Segments for sales, you can also use them to analyze operational efficiency for each group. Segments help organizations see things in manageable chucks!


Are you really losing on price?

Are you really losing on price?The truth is, price is ALWAYS a major part of the buying decision. Some buyers understand market price; they do their homework or have purchased your service/product in the past. This group also knows what to expect at certain price points. Other buyers have no clear idea about price and expect salespeople to educate them (frightening, but true). So why do you or your salespeople always seem to be selling on price?

The answers, listed in no particular order:

  • Poor selling skills
  • “Me too” selling by all competitors

Most price issues are generated by the people selling the services. If no one is good at selling or differentiating how she is the best provider, the only thing left to talk about is price. This reality is hard for most salespeople to accept because what it really means is:

  1. You suck at sales
  2. Your company sucks
  3. Your industry is full of hacks

You can correct or take advantage of two of these. If your company sucks, leave!

A simple action to add so that you don’t totally suck at sales is to become skilled at identifying how much a buyer expects to pay. Looking at their current expense is NO indication of the buyer’s real price expectation.

Have you ever tried to get out of a bad relationship? Think of it in these somewhat strange terms:

Say this current bad relationship costs you $85.00 in happiness dollars. In return, you get:

  • A dinner companion
  • Someone to hang out with
  • His annoying habit #1
  • His annoying habit #2
  • His annoying habit #3
  • Etc.

Now someone else comes along and is willing to get in a relationship with you at a cost to you of $125.00 happiness dollars. In return, you get:

  • A dinner companion
  • Someone to hang out with
  • A friend you enjoy
  • Going to movies you want to see
  • Freedom to be yourself

Would you rather pay about the same just to be in any relationship so long as it’s not your current one or invest an additional $40.00 to be in your ideal relationship?

Sales is about gaining an understanding of buyers’ needs and helping them achieve their goals with YOU! A first step in not totally sucking is to ask a simple question or two early so that everyone can focus on the buying process.

Identify an initial budget or price point:

“What are you expecting to invest on this project?”

The buyer will either tell you a monetary range or twist in her seat before saying “I can’t or would rather not give you that information.”

If he twists, be simple and help him out. Take your rough idea of price and give him a range to consider.

If your widget costs $100.00 month, you might say:

“Most clients expect to pay between $100.00-$150.00 a month. Does that fit within your budget?”

Notice that you should place your expected number on the low end. At this point, you want to see if you can even participate in the buying process. The buyer will either agree to the budget or explain that your numbers are low, high, or come clean and tell you he has no idea what to pay. Regardless, you now have a number to work with and can place pricing aside and help the buyer identify his ideal relationship. If you are high, don’t worry; find out what type of relationship they are looking for. When all is said and done, if you can deliver the relationship he really wants, he’ll find a way to invest in you.

If your sales team is selling price first, immediate and dramatic action should be taken to help them all earn more money. The following information should be considered.

How to bring your sales team around to sell first and align price later

  • Ask this question first: Is your company actually priced within market? I define this as being 20% either side of the market leader’s price.
  • Don’t let your team adjust price on any new business for one quarter. This may be kind of hard for some managers. Don’t worry about the short term. You need to be thinking of future team health. If a manager can hold firm on price concessions, the sales team will spend more time helping buyers BUY from them and less time giving price. Once they get it, they get it!
  • Create a great SPIF program focused on holding price.

What to do if your main competitor is 20-40% less on every deal and they’re actually winning the deals

  • Verify that the competitor is actually winning. Call lost accounts to make sure a change or deal occurred.
    • Survey these accounts
    • What did they like most about the winner?
    • Is the purchase working out as expected?
    • If price wasn’t an issue, would they have chosen you?
  • As a sales team, do a Differentiation Worksheet
    • “Ben Franklin” each company
      • Where are you the same?
      • Where does your team say the same thing?
      • Where do you do the same things?
      • What can you change to stand above this competitor?
      • How can you demonstrate value to these clients against this competitor?

Work as a team to develop a simple sales approach to use when competing against this competitor. By being prepared, your team will instantly bring a better buying experience and more likability to the sale.

How to use the Excel Connector in

The Excel Connector is a fabulous tool, that once figured out , every admin will use time and time again and become a hero to the company they support.

Here is a link to the Excel Connector Community

Here is a link to the Excel Connector Manual and Download.

Here is our how to video:

(If you see a black screen here click it and the video will play or use this link to view the video in a larger format:

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Leveraging your Sales Cycle to Improve Sales Stage Performance

When I’m trying to get a snapshot of what makes a sales team tick I always look at wins across business segments by Sales Cycle Age.

This information is very helpful when analyzing team forecasts and identifying where your team members are strong. When you apply a Sales Cycle Age to a forecast it brings a hard statistic that you use as a benchmark against a sales persons aged opportunities. As a Sales Manager it’s our job to review this information with each salesperson, demonstrating the fact and fiction of their forecast. When sales history is applied to a forecast we help salespeople remove much of their emotional connection to their forecast list helping them focus sales energy on deals within their typical win range.

I’ve spoken about the importance of segmenting business in the past. When the business is broken down into parts it becomes much easier to see where to market. When you apply Sales Cycle Age to segments you can see where you win fastest. When you can see your strengths we can see our positive selling patterns and apply training and coaching to bring up performance across the entire team.

A new wrinkle to sales metric analysis is Stage Age. Sales Cycle Age is far easier to measure because we are only looking at the time involved from creating a buying cycle to a win. However measuring Sales Stage Age requires salespeople to follow team rules and modify opportunities as client’s progress through the process. Everyone that has ever been in sales knows this is a tough one to sell; if you are able to motivate your sales team to measure Stage Age they will be helping themselves to improved performance.

Here is an example of a Sales Cycle broken down by Sales Stage:

  • Lead: 10 Days
  • Qualify: 10 Days
  • Working: 10 Days
  • Demo: 10 Days
  • Quote: 10 Days
  • Win: 0 Days

As you can see this is a 60 day Sale Cycle, each stage should take 10 days.

Once you apply Stage management techniques you’ll be able to see trouble deals before it’s too late. The easiest way to implement Stages management is to gain a team commitment to monitoring their Stages for 90 days. Managers should allow the sales team to create, as a group, to create the stages of their sales process. If they build it they will own it! To keep everyone interested, sales management must lead the way.

Managers are looked to for leadership and if your sales team feels something is unimportant to you than it becomes unimportant to them. My advice is to review the Stage management result each week and ask for team input on improving the process. At the end of the 90 day period you will start to see patterns develop along with a typical age history in your wins.

While we can learn a lot from our losses it really is easier to improve by focusing on your strengths. Analyzing wins will yield information that is far easier for salespeople to apply to their day to day life. Now that you have information on stage age you can create a measurement report that everyone can use to more proactively help prospects become customers.

If you are going to roll-out sales stages to you team start with a very simple list used on larger Segment 3+ opportunities. (In payroll sales Segment 3 is any deal with annualized payroll revenue over $4,000).

  • Qualifying
  • Presentation
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation
  • Win

I hope this information sheds some light on how you can use Sales Cycle and Stage Age to improve team performance.

Highlevel view of the two processes of payroll sales.

Cartoon Sales Managers should review before every One on One!

What People Say by Hugh MacLeod

Birdseye view of Social Media based on HubSpot Metrics.

The biggest take away from these slides, if your business is looking to gain more inbound leads the number one place to start is your company blog. Enjoy the slides and a big Thank You to HubSpot for publishing this information.

Another Web Conference Bites the Dust! (An instant classic for sales people)

We’ve all been here before!

Love to hear about similar experiences and any Web Conferencing service recommendations.